Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Latest information and advice for small businesses.

Last updated: 5 March 2021

With the situation changing quickly it can be difficult for businesses to keep up-to-date with the latest advice, developments and support that is available. We have created this page which we will be updating on a regular basis to try and keep you informed through this national crisis.

Below is a summary of the support that is currently available to businesses and how you can access it. You can find additional information on the website.

Restart Grants

What is it?

£5bn worth of grant funding across England to help businesses restart trading safely.

One-off cash grants of up to £6,000 per premises for non-essential retail businesses and up to £18,000 per premises for accommodation, hospitality, leisure, personal care and gym businesses.

An additional £425 million of discretionary business grant funding for local authorities to distribute.

This will replace the Local Restrictions Grants which will close on 31 March 2021.

How do I apply?

Once these grants are available you will need to apply by visiting your local council website following the links below.

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

What is it?

The SEISS scheme has been extended up until the end of September 2021. There will be two final rounds of grant payments:

  • 4th Grant: HMRC will pay 80% of average trading profits up to £50,000, capped at £7,500, covering February, March and April 2021.  
  • 5th Grant: This covers the period of May, June, July, August and September 2021. The grant will pay 80% of trading profits up to £50,000, capped at £7,500 if turnover has fallen by 30% or more. If turnover had fallen less than 30%, businesses will receive 30% grant capped at £2,850

Who is it for?

Anyone who makes over 50% of their earnings through self-employment, with average profits of £50,000 or less and whose business has been adversely affected by coronavirus is eligible for the scheme. Limited company directors can't apply.

As of the 2021 Budget, anyone who has submitted a 2019-20 tax return is now eligible. You must also intend to continue to trade in the 2020-2021 tax year. HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant.

How do I apply?

You can go online and check your eligibility. You will then need to fill in an online form, at which point the grant will be paid directly into your bank account.

The online claims service for the fourth grant will be available from late April 2021 -

Additional Information

You can find further information on the government website.

VAT & Business Rates

VAT Reduction for Tourism & Hospitality

There will be a temporary VAT cut for food and non-alcoholic drinks from 15 July 2020 to the end of September 2021 to support businesses and jobs in the hospitality sector.

VAT will be reduced to 5% and will apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK.

There will also be a temporary VAT cut for accommodation and attractions – From 15 July 2020 to 30 September 2021, to support businesses and jobs. The VAT reduction to 5% will apply to accommodation bookings and admission to attractions across the UK.

After 30 September 2020, a new VAT rate of 12.5% will apply for another 6 months until end of March 2022.

Business Rates Reduction

Eligible retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will continue to receive 100% business rates relief until 30 June 2021.

This will be followed by 66% business rates relief from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022, capped at £2 million per business for properties that were required to be closed on 5 January 2021, or £105,000 per business for other eligible properties.

Job Support Scheme

What is it?

The Job Support Scheme will replace the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which will now finish on 2 December. This is a delay from the original start on 1 November as the Job Retention Scheme has been extended.

The new scheme will run until April 2021.

The support has been designed to prevent unemployment by helping to keep employees working on a part time basis. Here is an outline of the scheme:

  • Employees must work at least a third of their normal hours. The time they work will continue to be paid in full as normal by the employer.
  • For any time employees are unable to work, the government will pay a third of their wages (up to £697.92 a month), with the employer also paying a third. This means employees will continue to receive at least 77% of their normal wages.

Who is it for?

All employers with PAYE are eligible to apply. Neither the employer or the employee needs to have previously used the Coronavirus  Job Retention Scheme.

Large businesses will have to meet a financial assessment test, so the scheme is only available to those whose turnover is lower now than before experiencing difficulties from Covid-19. There will be no financial assessment test for small and medium
enterprises (SMEs).

How do I apply?

Employers will be able to make a claim online through from December 2020. They will be paid on a monthly basis.

Additional Information

  • Employees must be on an employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 23 September 2020.
  • The employee must work at least 33% of their usual hours. After 3 months, the Government will consider whether to increase this minimum hours threshold.
  • Employees will be able to cycle on and off the scheme and do not have to be working the same pattern each month, but each short-time working arrangement must cover a minimum period of seven days.
  • Grant payments will be made in arrears, reimbursing the employer for the Government’s contribution.
  • The grant will not cover Class 1 employer NICs or pension contributions, although these contributions will remain payable by the employer.

Kickstart Grants

What is it?

Grant funding of between £1,000 and £3,000 to eligible businesses for the following:

  • Specialist professional advice such as HR, financial including accountancy, IT and digital.
  • The purchase of minor equipment to support your business to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue to deliver business activity.

Who is it for?

The grant funding is available to small and medium sized businesses across the Heart of the South West area which includes Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.

How do I apply?

You will need to submit an application through the Growth Hub website where you will also find additional guidance and FAQs on submitting an application.

Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants who meet the sector criteria on a first come, first served basis according to the date and time of submission.

Applications have now closed.

Local Restrictions Support Grants

What is it?

Businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions will be eligible for the following grant payments:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.

Who is it for?

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must:

  • Occupy and be liable for business rates on a property that appears in the Local Rating List on 4 November 2020
  • Have been trading on 4 November 2020
  • Have been open as usual on 4 November and providing in-person services to customers from their premises; and
  • Mandated to close from 5 November to visiting members of the public for a consecutive period of no less than 28 days as a result of regulations made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1994.

Businesses from the hospitality industry, including pubs, restaurants, and holiday accommodation are included in the list of those eligible for the grant.

Those which provide personal care, such as hairdressers, beauty salons, and many businesses in the leisure industry such as gyms, swimming pools, and soft play centres are also on the list.

If a business (included in the list) is substantially closed but still able to offer some click and collect or take-away service, it is still eligible for this business support grant.

A full list of all the businesses that were instructed to close, and those on the exemption list can be found on the Government's business advice pages.

How do I apply?

Grant applications can be applied for through your local authority following the links above under 'Restart Grants'.

Additional Restriction Grants

What is it?

The Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) provides local councils with grant funding to support businesses affected by local lockdown measures that are not covered by other grant schemes, or where additional funding is needed.

Who is it for?

Each local authority will announce it's own set of eligibility criteria for their area.

As an overview, the funding will be to support closed businesses that do not directly pay business rates as well as businesses that do not have to close but which are impacted by restrictions.

This could include:

  • businesses which supply the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors
  • businesses in the events sector
  • business required to close but which do not pay business rates

You cannot get funding if:

  • your business is in administration, insolvent or has been struck off the Companies House register
  • you have exceeded the permitted state aid threshold

How do I apply?

Grant applications can be applied for through your local authority following the links above under 'Restart Grants'.

Small Business Grant Scheme

What is it?

The government will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Who is it for?

All small businesses that receive small business rate relief or rural rate relief.

How do I apply?

There is nothing you need to do. Your local authority will be writing to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Additional Information

There is nothing you need to do. Your local authority will be writing to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Recovery Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loans and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will close on 31 March 2021. This new Recovery Loan Scheme will take over as the replacement from 6 April 2021 until 31 December 2021.

Business will be able to apply for loans between £25,000 and £10 million with the government providing an 80% guarantee to lenders. The scheme will be open to all businesses, including those who have already received support under the existing COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes.

Super-deduction Tax Incentive

From 1 April 2021 until 31 March 2023, companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery assets will be able to claim:

  • a 130% super-deduction capital allowance on qualifying plant and machinery investments
  • a 50% first-year allowance for qualifying special rate assets

This upfront super-deduction will allow businesses to cut their tax bill by up to 25p for every £1 invested.

Help to Grow Scheme

Help to Grow: Management

The government will offer a new UK-wide management programme to upskill 30,000 SMEs in the UK over three years. Developed in partnership with industry, the programme will combine a national curriculum delivered through business schools with practical case studies and mentoring from experienced business professionals. It will run over 12 weeks, and is 90% subsidised by government.

30,000 places will be available over 3 years. The programme is 90% subsidised by government – participants will be charged £750.

UK businesses from any sector that have been operating for more than 1 year, with between 5 to 249 employees are eligible. The participant should be a decision maker or member of the senior management team within the business e.g. Chief Executive, Finance Director etc.

Charities are not eligible.

Help to Grow: Digital

Another new UK-wide scheme will launch in the autumn to help 100,000 SMEs save time and money by adopting productivity-enhancing software, to help transform the way they do business. This will combine a voucher covering up to half of the costs of approved software up to a maximum of £5,000, and free impartial advice, delivered through an online platform.

The voucher is expected to be available to UK business that:

  • employ between 5 and 249 employees and are registered at Companies House
  • have been trading for more than 12 months
  • are purchasing the discounted software for the first time.

You can find out more about both schemes on the government Help to Grow page.

Kickstart Scheme & Apprenticeships

Kickstart Scheme

Fully funded 6 month work placements for those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.

Any business in Great Britain can apply. Funding available for each job will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. Employers may top wages up if they wish but are under no obligation to do so.

Employers will get £1,500 funding per job placement. This is for setup costs and to support the young person develop their employability skills. If someone else helps you to do some of this for you, you’ll have to agree how you will share this money.

There is no limit on the amount of placements each business can accept and the minimum restriction of 30 placements has been removed.

Employers can now submit their own application online and no longer need to apply through a Gateway organisation, though they can still choose to do so if they wish.

You can apply online through the Government website.

Trainees & Apprenticeships

The government has introduced a new payment of £3,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021.

These payments will be in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government already provides for new 16-18 year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan, where that applies.

Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme

What is it?

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.

Who is it for?

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses such as:

  • shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues.
  • hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

How do I apply?

There is nothing you need to do. Your local authority will be writing to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Additional Information

Please be aware that there have been reports of scammers posing as the council contacting you about grant funding and asking for your bank details. Local authorities will not call, you will receive a letter from them with details.

Also, letters will likely be sent to business premises, so you may have to check your place of work for the letter.

Small Business Bounce Back Loan Scheme

What is it?

Access to loans of up to 25% of the turnover of the business up to a maximum of £50,000. The loans will be 100% backed by the government and interest free for 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be fixed at 2.5%.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme is open to applications until 31 March 2021.

Who is it for?

The loan scheme is open to any size business though it has been aimed at small businesses and sole traders. The business must not have been an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ as of 31st December 2019.

How do I apply?

The loans will be administered through the banks via a simple, standard form with no complex lending criteria and should be processed within days. Loan terms will be up to 6 years.

Additional Information

If you have already obtained a coronavirus business interruption loan of £50,000 or less, you can convert it to a bounce back loan.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

What is it?

Access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years. Interest and fees will be free for the first 12 months.

The Business Interruption Loan Scheme is open until 31 March 2021.

Who is it for?

All businesses with a turnover of less than £45 million per year. You must also generate more than 50% of your turnover through trading activity.

How do I apply?

There are 40 accredited lenders who can offer the scheme listed on the British Business Bank website.

Additional Information

The government will provide a guarantee of 80% on any loan. Remember that this will need to be paid back and you are liable for paying off the balance of the loan.

Loans of under £250,000 will not require a personal guarantee (and lenders are banned from asking for one). You also do not need to be disqualified from commercial lending in order to qualify.

Here is further information on the Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Business Rates Holiday

What is it?

100% retail relief for 2020/21 which means eligible businesses will pay no business rates for a year, including all premises, regardless of their rateable value.

Who is it for?

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses such as:

  • shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues.
  • hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

How do I apply?

There is nothing you need to do. Local authorities are working hard to re-bill all eligible businesses to show this 100% discount as soon as possible.

Job Retention Bonus Scheme

What is it?

One-off payment of £1,000 paid to employers for every employee who remains continuously employed from November 2020 to the end of January 2021.

Who is it for?

It is available to all employers. Employees must earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (£520 per month) on average between November and the end of January 2021.

How do I apply?

Payments will be made from February 2021. Further detail about the scheme will be announced by the end of July.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

What is it?

HMRC will pay 80% of employees' salaries who would otherwise have been laid off, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Businesses have flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time.

This scheme has been extended to run until 30th September 2021.

Employers will only need to pay National Insurance and employer pension contributions in April, May & June. In July employers will have to contribute 10%, and this rises to 20% in August and September.

For periods ending on or before 30 April 2021 , you can claim for employees who were employed on 30 October 2020. Anyone made redundant after 23rd September 2020 can be rehired and put back on furlough. 

For periods starting on or after 1 May 2021, you can claim for employees who were employed on 2 March 2021.

Who is it for?

All businesses with employees on their payroll, or who made employees redundant after 23rd September 2020.

How do I apply?

You will have to submit the following information to HMRC through a new online portal which is now live:

  • Your name and phone number
  • Your bank account number and sort code
  • Your Self-Assessment UTR (Unique Tax Reference), Company UTR or CRN (Company Registration Number).
  • The name, employee number and National Insurance number for each of your furloughed employees.
  • The total amount being claimed for all employees and the total furlough period.

If you use an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes, they will be able to make a claim on your behalf, so please speak to them now.

Follow the link below to make a claim.

Make a claim on the government website.

Additional Information

You will need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change.

Further details are available on the .Gov website.

VAT Deferral

What is it?

VAT payments will be deferred for 3 months, from 20th March to 30th June 2020.

Who is it for?

All businesses.

How do I apply?

This is done automatically so you don't need to do anything. Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay.

Additional Information

Business who deferred their VAT bills no longer have to pay a lump sum in full at the end March 2021 and,will be able to make 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year.

Income Tax Deferral

What is it?

Self-assessment tax payments have been deferred until 31st January 2021.

Who is it for?

Anyone who is self-employed.

How do I apply?

This is done automatically so you don't need to do anything. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment until January 2021.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

What is it?

A refund to cover 2 weeks' SSP per employee for absence due to Coronavirus.

Who is it for?

Employers with fewer than 250 employees as of 28th February 2020 and must have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • fixed term contracts.

How do I apply?

The government online gateway is now open to reclaim SSP. You can find the full guidance and the online portal to make a claim on the .GOV website.

You will need to have a record of any absences due to Coronavirus including:

  • the reason why an employee could not work
  • details of each period when an employee could not work, including start and end dates
  • details of the SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work
  • National Insurance numbers of all employees who you have paid SSP to

You’ll have to keep these records for at least 3 years following your claim.

Employees do not need to supply a doctor's fit note in order to claim.

Time to Pay Service

What is it?

If you are in financial distress and have outstanding tax liabilities you can receive support through the HMRC Time to Pay service. Any agreements are made on a case by case basis depending on your individual circumstances.

HM Revenue & Customs' Time to Pay service facility gives a 12 month extension to self-assessment taxpayers which means payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, don't need to be paid until January 2022.

Who is it for?

All businesses and self-employed people who have outstanding tax liabilities.

How do I apply?

Call HMRC on their dedicated helpline - 0800 0159 559.

Eviction Protection

What is it?

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction. These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June.

Who is it for?

All commercial tenants.

Additional information

This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.

Corporate Financing Facility

What is it?

The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies. This will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

It will operate for at least 12 months, and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

Who is it for?

Companies and their finance subsidiaries that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

More information on eligibility can be found on the Bank of England Website.

How do I apply?

In order to access the CCFF, you will need to contact your bank. It is important to note that not all banks issue commercial paper. If your bank does not issue commercial paper, UK Finance will provide a list of banks that are able to assist.

Facebook Small Business Grants

What is it?

Businesses experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19 may be able to apply to Facebook for support. Facebook is offering US$100 million (approximately £84 million) in cash grants and advertising credits on its ad platform for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses.

The funding is intended to help businesses in the following ways:

  • covering operational costs
  • helping with rent costs
  • connecting with more customers
  • maintaining a strong workforce

Who is it for?

Small businesses, though additional criteria will be announced in the near future.

How do I apply?

Applications are not yet open though Facebook says it will share more information in the coming weeks. You can find out more and register your interest in receiving updates here.

Join Our Newsletter

The situation with the coronavirus outbreak is changing fast. We will be keeping this page updated but if you would like to receive further information, news and advice as we receive it please sign up to our emails below.

Additional Support & Information

As well as the government announced support there are also various local initiatives that you may find useful. We have listed below a number of useful resources to help you and your business get through this difficult time. In addition to this there may be ways that your business can help the national effort so we have also listed opportunities to switch production to manufacture vital products.

Remote Working Advice & Toolkit

What is it?

Cosmic, a Devon - based social enterprise specialising in all things digital has launched its Business Continuity Helpline to share their knowledge and expertise with organisations in the region.

The helpline and an associated toolkit will provide advice and support on home working and managing a business during periods of disruption. The helpline is designed to support small businesses, charities and local organisations in the south west - helping them to prepare for the impacts of coronavirus (Covid-19).

How do I apply?

The number for the helpline is 0330 088 4421.

You can find further information as well as access to their remote working toolkit on the Cosmic website.

Cosmic's team are all working remotely so will do their best to answer the phone. If you struggle to get through, please still look at the toolkit and the other sources they have made available on their website.

Secure Home Working Advice

Based in the Exeter Science Park, Securious have written a blog to secure home working for your staff through the Coronavirus pandemic.

Many companies are now actively encouraging their employees to work from home due to issues surrounding the spread of the virus. Larger organisations often already have the infrastructure and working practices in place to accommodate large scale home working by employees.

The problem many smaller organisations will have if they face the prospect of offices being closed (particularly if they rent office space in a multi-tenanted building) is that they have never had the requirement to enable home working en masse for staff, which may lead to significant issues with cyber security.

The article will cover some of the issues as well as potential solutions that organisations can implement to ensure their work-force can continue to be productive and secure when working remotely.

Read the full article on the Securious website.

Ventilator Production

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for organisations who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the Government's response to COVID-19.

If you have the capacity to help with the supply of addition ventilators there is a form you can complete to register your business.

How do I help?

You can register your details on the government website which will ask you to complete:

  • Basic details and contact
  • Supply chain experience
  • Business capabilities

To register please visit the government website.

Details of the specification of rapidly manufactured ventilator systems needed as part of the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found here.

    Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust Grants

    What is it?

    One-off grants of £5,000 for small charities that support disadvantaged children aged 0-3 and that are affected by Coronavirus in a loss of income or an ability to deliver services.

    Who is it for?

    • Charities registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales whose last audited accounts show an income of less than £750,000.
    • Charities that can demonstrate the likelihood of increased demand for their services and/or can demonstrate a loss of anticipated income attributable to the current pandemic.

    How do I apply?

    For further information about the grants, please visit the Sylvia Adams website.

    TechForce 19 Challenge

    What is it?

    The TechForce19 Challenge has been launched to provide funding for innovators who can find digital ways of supporting vulnerable people during the Coronavirus outbreak.

    Companies will receive funding of up to £25,000 to develop or test their COVID-19 solution.

    Who is it for?

    Innovators and technology companies from across the UK may apply. Successful applicants will be selected based on solution feasibility, company credibility, impact and digital maturity.

    How do I apply?

    You can find out more information  about the funding and submit an application on the TechForce 19 website.

    DCC Prompt Action Fund

    What is it?

    Devon County Council has launched the COVID-19 Prompt Action Fund to provide flexible resources to organisations working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the social and economic consequences of this outbreak. All applications that are under £500 are invited to apply.

    Who is it for?

    Constituted and not-for-private-profit Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector groups and organisations, Town and Parish Councils, charities or businesses, or a combination of such groups working together.

    Non-constituted groups without their own, separate bank account, small local businesses and individuals may apply but they will need to do so with the support of an accountable constituted organisation acting on their behalf either as guarantor or as the holder of the funding.

    How do I apply?

    You will need to submit an application through the Devon County Council website.

    You can find further information about the fund here.